Record Stakes Purses Set for Oaklawn Park

Record Stakes Purses Set for Oaklawn Park

Photo: Coady Photography

One year after increasing the purses of 19 stakes races, Oaklawn Park has planned the richest stakes schedule in track history for 2015. Chief among the changes is a $150,000 bump to the Rebel Stakes (gr. II), which will be worth $750,000 next year.

The Rebel is the final local prep for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (gr. I). Overall, Oaklawn will run 31 stakes worth $6,675,000,  a $300,000 increase over 2014 and more than $2 million more than the Arkansas track offered seven years ago.

“I am continually impressed by what we’ve been able to accomplish the past several years,” said director of racing David Longinotti. “The timing of the Rebel and the quality of its field for the past several runnings make it an important Triple Crown prep in its own right. It is very deserving of a purse increase.”

The Rebel will share the card for the second straight year with the Razorback Handicap (gr. III) and Azeri Stakes (gr. II) as part of “Racing Festival Preview Day” March 14. The $250,000 Razorback, which had its purse raised by $50,000 for 2015, is the final local prep for the $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II), while the $300,000 Azeri, which had its purse bumped $100,000 over last year, is the last prep before the $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I).

“We also felt by enhancing the purses of the Razorback and Azeri we could build on the Preview Day concept we started in 2014,” Longinotti said. “Last year, we were also able to boost the purse of both the Apple Blossom and the Oaklawn Handicap by $100,000 each, and we’re pleased to be able to keep those purses at the $600,000 level for 2015.”

The 1 1/16-mile Rebel, whose past winners include 3-year-old champions Will Take Charge, Lookin At Lucky  , Curlin  , and Smarty Jones  , is the third of four Oaklawn stakes races offering Kentucky Derby points, culminating with the Arkansas Derby. The first two races in the track’s rich series highlight the holiday Monday cards in January and February. The $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes will be run Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 19, and the $300,000 Southwest Stakes (gr. III) will be run Presidents Day, Feb. 16.

The “Racing Festival of the South” will kick off April 4 with the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (gr. III) for 3-year-old fillies.

The meet will culminate with the 79th running of the Arkansas Derby. The closing day card also will feature the Oaklawn Handicap, $100,000 Northern Spur Stakes, and $100,000 Instant Racing Stakes.

Download the 2015 Oaklawn Stakes Schedule.

Hawthorne Drops Race Dates, Cuts Fall Stakes

Hawthorne Drops Race Dates, Cuts Fall Stakes

Photo: Four Footed Fotos – Hawthorne Race Course

The Illinois Racing Board July 31 approved a request from Hawthorne Race Course to drop 13 racing dates from its fall schedule and slash its stakes program.   The request, approved unanimously and with the consent of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, came amid concerns about the horse population likely to be available for fall races. And that, in turn, is reflective of the sorry financial condition of the state’s racing.
“This year, we hope to have 1,500 horses for the fall meet,” said Hawthorne president Tim Carey. “More and more people are moving to other states because of the purse structure and the lack of movement by the legislature” on a bill allowing slot machines at tracks.
As recently as three years ago, Carey said, the track had 2,700 stall applications.
ITHA executive director Glen Berman agreed the shortage of horses makes a reduced racing week the least-bad option for horsemen. “Fewer racing days means more racing opportunities because the races will fill,” he said.   Berman also agreed the horse shortage is driven by declining purses, fueled by competition from states where gaming supports racing. “We have horses shipping out daily to other states,” he said, mentioning Indiana, Minnesota, and Iowa.   Hawthorne cut live racing scheduled for Oct. 1-2 and eliminated all 13 Sunday programs slated to be run from October through December. The stakes schedule drops all open stakes except the Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II), which will be run for a $250,000 purse. The limited state-bred stakes program also will see purse reductions.   Carey said the elimination of stakes such as the Robert F. Carey Memorial Handicap, “which is named for my grandfather, was a painful decision. We’re doing this to support the overnight purse structure and keep as many of the horsemen here as we can and prevent them from moving to other states.”   Underlying concerns about purse structure and racing dates is a looming confrontation between horsemans’ groups for rights to negotiate contracts with Arlington International Racecourse and Hawthorne.

IRB Chairman William Berry said he hopes at next month’s board meeting to lay out protocols for developing rules to decide any such conflict. He acknowledged, however, that an ongoing dispute could lead to serious and lengthy legal entanglements.   The next IRB meeting is Aug. 14 at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, coincident with harness racing at the fair’s grandstand.

Handle Declines at Churchill-Owned Tracks

Handle Declines at Churchill-Owned Tracks

Despite an increase in racing days during the first six months of this year, total pari-mutuel handle at Churchill Downs, Inc.-owned tracks fell 9.7%, from $1.06 billion in 2013, to $958.3 million, according to figures included in the quarterly report issued July 30.
As reported July 30 when the financial reports were released, despite the downturn in handle, CDI registered a 4% increase in net revenues from its racing operations for the first six months, from $192.4 million in 2013 to $199.4 million this year. That includes a 2% improvement in revenues from pari-mutuel handle, thanks to increased revenues from handle at Churchill Downs racetrack and a handle increase at CDI’s advance-deposit wagering outlet
Also, second quarter racing revenues rose 1% to $159.4 million, from $157.4 million.
The company reported that during the first half of 2014, there were 206 live Thoroughbred racing days at CDI tracks, compared with 180 during the first half of last year. During the second quarter of 2014—Jan. 1-June 30—there were 10 fewer live racing days at CDI-owned tracks, from 124 to 114, with handle down 17% during that period.
Churchill Downs operates its flagship track in Louisville, Ky., Fair Grounds Race Course and Slots in New Orleans, La., Arlington International near Chicago, Ill., and Calder Casino and Race Course in South Florida.
CDI has a corporate policy in which its tracks do not report wagering or attendance on a regular basis, except for major race days such days when the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), and night racing takes place. Some of the tracks’ handle numbers have been reported after being obtained from records the tracks are required to file with regulators, but the quarterly report provides the first overview of the wagering trend at the racetrack- and casino-operating company.
By track, Churchill Downs‘ handle fell by $52.25 million during the first half of the year, from $461.4 million to $409.2 million; Arlington handle was down 13%, from $246.9 million to $215.6 million; Fair Grounds handle declined 9% from $195.0 million to $177.7 million; and Calder fell only 1% from $157.6 million to $155.8 million.
But Churchill Downs racetrack registered a 7 percent increase ($2.848 million) in revenues from pari-mutuel wagering, thanks to improved handle on Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) weekend and the increased takeout rate generating more revenue for the track. Commissions for the Churchill meet were up from 8.8% last year to 10.6% this year.

No other track reported increased revenue, although CDI’s advance-deposit wagering saw a 6% increase in handle and 7% increase in net pari-mutuel revenues, up $5.72 million this year to $86.413 million. Pari-mutuel handle for Churchill’s online business reached $449,286,000 in the first six months of the year, up $28.99 million compared with last year. Churchill said those online numbers do not include its Isle of Man, high-end player, Velocity Wagering Services.
During the second quarter of fiscal 2014, CDI entered into an agreement with Gulfstream Park to lease and manage the live racing operations of Calder. Previous to that pact, the two South Florida tracks had engaged in head-to-head live racing competition.
The CDI earnings report said 214 full-time positions at Calder were eliminated as a result of the Gulfstream-Calder agreement, which provides that Churchill continue to operate the Calder casino.

In its written analysis of the six-month and second quarter handle trends, CDI said the wagering downturn was “primarily due to the loss of Calder hosting revenues and declines in Florida wagering, and from field-size challenges impacting business levels at our Churchill Downs and Arlington locations.”
According to The Jockey Club Information Systems, there were an average 7.29 runners per race during the 38-day Churchill Downs spring meet, compared with 7.78 per race during the same 38-day meet a year ago. At Arlington, fields have average 7.68 per race during the first 52 days of the 2014 meet, compared with 8.01 for the same number of days in 2013.
The Horseplayers Association of North America had called upon its members and other bettors to boycott Churchill Downs, and other CDI tracks, after the flagship track hiked takeout rates—the amount taken out of each $1 wagered before the rest is returned to the bettors—for the spring meet.
In a release, the company said the strong overall corporate results for the second quarter were due to the acquisition of a casino in Oxford, Miss., and an $8.8 million increase over 2013 in revenues from Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) week.


Wise Dan Won’t Run in Fourstardave

Trainer Charlie LoPresti said July 31 that two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan will not make his comeback in the Fourstardave Handicap (gr. IIT) at Saratoga Race Course, an event the 7-year-old gelding has won the past two years.

Wise Dan, a six-time Eclipse Award winner and back-to-back Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT) victor, has been back in training after undergoing colic surgery May 16. He has had two starts of the year—repeat wins in the April 11 Maker’s 46 Mile (gr. IT) at Keeneland and in the May 3 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. IT) at Churchill Downs.

“I want to do what’s right for this horse and I kind of feel like it was maybe just wishful thinking to try and make this race,” LoPresti said of the Fourstsardave Aug. 9. “Don’t get me wrong, there’s not a thing wrong with him; I just need more time. he’s not dragging (exercise rider) Damien (Rock) around like he should yet, and maybe we’ve been pushing too hard to try to make this race.”

LoPresti said the Aug. 30 Bernard Baruch Handicap (gr. IIT), near the end of the Saratoga meet, is still an option for Morton Fink’s homebred son of Wiseman’s Ferry  . Or he could wait until the Sept. 14 Ricoh Woodbine Mile (Can-IT) at Woodbine, a race he has also won the past two years.

“The Bernard Baruch might be an easier comeback race for him, but between that, the Shadwell (Turf Mile, gr. IT, Oct. 4 at Keeneland) and the Woodbine Mile, those are three nice options for my horse that give me a little more time to catch my breath with him,” LoPresti said.

“He doesn’t owe me anything and the worst thing I can do is press on him and have him get beat when I know he wasn’t ready. I’d never forgive myself. I don’t want to be under the gun with him and this way I can space his works out a litlte bit and not push on too hard.”

Wise Dan has breezed three times since returning to training—four furlongs at Keeneland July 11 in :50 2/5, four furlongs over the Oklahoma turf course at Saratoga in :49.12 on July 18, and five furlongs on the same course July 25 in 1:03.72.

Bred in Kentucky out of the Wolf Power mare Lisa Danielle, Wise Dan currently has a record of 21 wins—10 of them in grade I events—and two seconds from 29 starts for earnings of $6,802,920.

CDI Reports Record Second Quarter Revenues

CDI Reports Record Second Quarter Revenues

Churchill Downs Inc. reported July 30 that the track and casino company had record second quarter net revenues of $303.7 million, up 7% over the $283.6 million figure for the same period a year ago.
In a release, the company said the strong results were due to the acquisition of a casino in Oxford, Miss., and an $8.8 million increase over 2013 in revenues from Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) week.
By category of business operations, CDI’s gaming revenues increased 23% to $82 million ($66.9 million in 2013), online revenues were up 9% to $57.1 million ($52.5 million), and racing revenues rose 1% to $159.4 million ($157.4 million).

The results mirrored trends seen in recent years as the company has morphed from a racing enterprise to a gaming company. Overall wagering on racing was down 17% at CDI tracks during the quarter, with online wagering up 5%.
CDI said those numbers resulted in record net earnings per common share of $3.21, an increase of 14% compared to the prior period.
During the second quarter, CDI entered into an agreement with The Stronach Group for that racetrack entity to lease and manage the live racing operations at Florida’s Calder Casino and Race Course. During the quarter, Calder recognized a decline in Adjusted EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest Taxes Depreciation and Amortization) of $2 million on lost host simulcast revenues and 10 fewer race days, CDI reported.
“Our second-quarter results were solid considering the soft regional gaming market with record net revenues up 7%, and record Adjusted EBITDA up 12% over second-quarter 2013,” said Robert L. Evans, chairman and CEO, in the release.
“(The) 2014 Oaks and Derby week Adjusted EBITDA increased $8.8 million over 2013 to a new record, with broad-based gains in premium tickets and admissions, pari-mutuel wagering, media rights, food and beverage, and merchandise,” Evans added. “In addition, TwinSpires’ handle continued to outperform U.S. Thoroughbred handle trends despite our 2013 departure from Texas. Finally, in late June, we completed the repurchase of 691,000 shares of stock for $61.6 million.”
Evans said three strategic initiatives undertaken during the second quarter of fiscal 2014 are designed to boost CDI’s bottom line in the future.
“First, we signed an agreement with The Stronach Group to lease Calder Race Course and operate live racing through 2020, which will improve Calder’s future Adjusted EBITDA performance as well as offer a viable long-term solution to preserving racing in South Florida on a year-round basis.
“Second, we submitted an application to develop and operate a casino in East Greenbush, N.Y., near Albany, with our joint venture partner Saratoga Harness Racing, Inc. Finally, we signed a binding term sheet to manage Saratoga Casino and Raceway in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and Saratoga Casino Black Hawk in Black Hawk, Colo. As part of the agreement, we intend to acquire a 25% stake in Saratoga Harness Racing, Inc., which owns these properties along with a minority position in other assets.”

Details of CDI’s second quarter business results are at the following link:

Churchill Downs Incorporated Reports 2014 2014 Second-Quarter Results

Headquartered in Louisville, Ky., CDI owns and operates the Churchill Downs Racetrack; Calder racetrack and casino in Miami Gardens, Fla.; Fair Grounds Race Course & Casino, and video poker operations in New Orleans, La.; Arlington International Racecourse in Arlington Heights, Ill.; a casino resort in Greenville, Miss.; a casino hotel in Vicksburg, Miss.; a casino in Oxford, Maine; and a 50%-owned joint venture, Miami Valley Gaming and Racing, in Lebanon, Ohio.

CDI also owns online wagering company,; the totalisator company, United Tote; online bingo gaming company; Bluff Media, an Atlanta-based multimedia poker company; and a collection of racing-related telecommunications and data companies.

Equibase Announces Redesigned Website

Equibase Announces Redesigned Website

Equibase Company announced July 29 the launch of a redesigned website that features a multi-homepage concept with user-chosen pathways for new/casual fans, regular visitors, and seasoned players/expert handicappers.

Launched earlier this month, the new site is more tablet-friendly and offers several new features within a clean, modern look.

“The 1-2-3 homepage approach provides a specially tailored experience for everyone, whether you simply love horses or play the races on a daily basis,” said Equibase president Hank Zeitlin. “ is the industry’s official source for racing information and serves almost 1 million pageviews per day, and now it is even more engaging for all levels of racing fans.”

The site was designed in collaboration with Lexington-based agency Cornett and was the culmination of a nearly year-long process that included focus groups with racing fans, handicappers, and several industry organizations regarding functionality and content. is by far the Thoroughbred industry’s number one trafficked site so it was important to make improvements where needed by enhancing the features and elements that have made it so successful to date,” said Cornett president Kip Cornett.

A “featured tracks” section was incorporated at the top of pages that lists tracks, including entries and results pages, enabling users to immediately find the high-profile tracks currently running. Among the other enhancements are product comparison pages, which help users understand the specific features of the various past performances and other products offered.

Equibase Company is a partnership between subsidiaries of The Jockey Club and the Thoroughbred Racing Associations of North America and serves as the Thoroughbred industry’s official database.


Montana Jockey Seriously Injured in Spill

A jockey is hospitalized in serious condition with head injuries after a weekend horse racing accident in Great Falls, Mont.

The Great Falls Tribune reported ( jockey Bill Christian fell during the fifth race July 27 at the state fair race meet at Montana ExpoPark.

Meet director Kelly Manzer says he believes two horses clipped heels. Christian’s mount, an 8-year-old named Vader Grade, suffered a serious shoulder injury and had to be euthanized.

Christian is in his 50s and is originally from Yakima, Wash., but works out of New Mexico. Spokeswoman Karen Ogden at Benefis Health System said Christian was in serious condition Monday afternoon.

The Great Falls Turf Club, which operated the meet, said it had insurance that will help cover the jockey’s medical bills.

According to, Christian has won with six of 48 mounts this year, with 30 wins from 359 starters for his career, with earnings of $149,714.


Coltimus Prime Rules Prince of Wales

Coltimus Prime Rules Prince of Wales

Photo: Michael Burns – Coltimus Prime and Eurico Rosa da Silva take the Prince of Wales Stakes

Coltimus Prime scored a commanding win in the Prince of Wales Stakes July 29 at Fort Erie, cruising wire to wire in the second jewel in the Canadian Triple Crown  (VIDEO) .
The victory was especially sweet for trainer and Fort Erie local Justin Nixon, who launched his career at the Ontario oval and was based there from 1996 to 2002.
A Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands hopeful earlier this year, Coltimus Prince came into the Prince of Wales off a ninth in the Queen’s Plate Stakes, the first leg of the series for Canadian-bred runners. In the Queen’s Plate, won by the filly Lexie Lou, he was forwardly placed through swift early fractions then faded but emphatically rebounded for classic victory in the Prince of Wales, taking charge to earn his first stakes win.
Breaking from the six hole in the 10-horse field, the son of Milwaukee Brew   was quick to lead and laid down an even pace throughout. He shook off a stretch challenge from runner-up Lynx before drawing away to triumph by 3 1/2 lengths at 5-1 odds. Ami’s Holiday, the 8-5 favorite off a runner-up finish in the Queen’s Plate, was up for third after racing in sixth, then fifth early on.
“I looked at the Form and it seems my horse was the speed in the race,” said winning rider Eurico Rosa da Silva, who guided Coltimus Prime through fractions of :24.03, 48.11, and 1:12.86 for six furlongs while Lynx pressed from second. As the mile went in 1:36.82, Frankie Pennington moved Lynx to challenge in midstretch, but Coltimus Prime found another gear to secure the victory.
“I was screaming (down the stretch),” Nixon said after the race. “We’ve won a lot of races here. This is awfully special. It means a lot. It’s a dream come true. I’ve watched a lot of good horses (at Fort Erie). I learned the game here when I first started my career. It’s something special to win its biggest race.
“We did everything we could to put this horse in the best possible position to win. “We brought him down a week early. He trained dynamite over the strip. He’s eaten well. He’s done everything the way you want a horse to go into a race.”
At a distance of 1 3/16 miles, the Prince of Wales is the only race in the Canadian Triple Crown Series that is run on dirt. The first race, the Queen’s Plate, is a 1 1/4-mile race on Woodbine‘s Polytrack surface. The final test, the Breeders’ Stakes, a 1 1/2-mile test, is held on Woodbine’s E.P. Taylor Turf Course and will be run Aug. 17.
Coltimus Prince covered the distance in 1:54.58, improving his overall record to 3-2-0 from nine career starts for Cabernet Racing Stables. He was second in last year’s Display Stakes at Woodbine after breaking his maiden by eight lengths at the Toronto track. A Kentucky Derby candidate earlier this year, he was unplaced in the both the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) and Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) before returning to Woodbine, where he won an allowance race in his start prior to the July 6 Queen’s Plate.
Coltimus Prince returned $12.80, $6.50 and $3.90 while Lynx paid $6 and $3.80. Ami’s Holiday brought $2.70 to show.
Smart Spree was fourth in the Prince of Wales, followed by Rhythm Blues, East Side, Lions Bay, Ascot Martin, Matador, and Money Talks to complete the order of finish.
Coltimus Prince is the third Canadian classic winner for Milwaukee Brew, also the sire of Canadian champions Ginger Brew and Milwaukee Appeal, respective winners of the Woodbine Oaks in 2008 and 2009. Bred in Ontario by J. Horner, he is out of the Distorted Humor   mare Certainly Special, who also produced his stakes-winning Silent Name half sister Crysta’s Court.



Catalano’s Daughter Reports Progress

Catalano's Daughter Reports Progress

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt – Wayne Catalano

While trainer Wayne Catalano remains hospitalized in a suburban Chicago, his daughter Shelbi Hill reports her father is improving.

In a July 28 Facebook posting, Hill noted that family members have been reading numerous get-well messages to her father at St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates, Ill.

“All our family and especially my dad, want to thank everyone for the prayers and positive thoughts,” Hill said. “We are here at the hospital reading my dad all the heartfelt and uplifting messages from everyone. I know my dad can hear them and they certainly help in keeping us all strong.”

She also said tests have revealed that Catalano is suffering from a severe case of influenza A, which led to pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome. On July 24, Catalano’s 58th birthday, Hill had reported her father was critically ill and hospitalized. On July 28, she said the multiple leading trainer at Arlington Park was improving.

“Each day my dad is progressing in the right direction,” Hill said. “We greatly appreciate all of your concern, prayers and positive energy. It means so much to us.”